Military uses biopower, aims to launch Great Green Fleet

By Erin Voegele | November 04, 2011

The military has been especially active in the push to develop biobased jet fuel. However, the U.S. Department of Defense’s interest is biomass-based energy sources is not limited to biofuels. Biomass-based power is also part of the department’s plan to source 50 percent of its energy needs from renewable resources.

Chris Tindal, director of operational energy for the U.S. Navy, spoke about the military’s goals and biomass-based energy and fuels initiatives at the 2011 Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show in Atlanta. Tindal’s presentation was part of a general session panel, titled “Exploring the Military’s Quest for Greater Biomass Derived Energy.”

While the Navy will be sourcing 50 percent of its energy needs from renewables by 2020, Tindal spoke about two specific energy segments the military must address; operational energy and shore energy. Operational energy, he said, is the energy used to power ships, planes and forward deployed troops. Liquid fuels are primarily used for these purposes. Alternatively, shore energy comprises things like base operations, where other types of renewable electricity, such as biomass-power, can be deployed.

Although the Navy has been particularly vocal about its support for biobased jet fuel, Tindal also spoke briefly about some of the shore energy initiatives that are ongoing. For example, a base located in Albany, Ga., currently sources more than 20 percent of its power from a landfill gas project that became operational earlier this year. The military has also actively been developing waste to energy facilities. One such plant in Portsmouth, Va. actually produces enough electricity to power the entire base. Excess energy is then sold to the grid.

Regarding biomass-based liquid transportation fuels, Tindal spoke about the Navy’s plans to sail the Great Green Fleet. We are aiming to complete a demonstration of the Great Green Fleet in 2012, he said. The fleet includes a carrier striker, two submarines, two destroyers and a cruiser, as well as the aircraft associated with the carrier. The goal is to have all nonnuclear components of this fleet fueled with biofuels. The Navy’s ultimate goal is to actually have the Great Green Fleet deployed overseas by 2016. We will likely be making an announcement soon regarding awards for the 2012 demonstration project, Tindal said, noting that the exercise will be completed with several U.S. allies, including Australia, Chile, Korea and Japan.

Tindal also spoke about the need to develop global sources of biofuel. “Obviously, the Navy and Department of Defense are a global force—and this force is everywhere,” he said. “It’s just not in the waters around the United States. When we go overseas, we would like to refuel on biofuels … Whether we’re in India, Singapore or Australia, we want to be able to do that. We can’t afford to have a tanker following [our ships] around the world just to fill them up on biofuels.”